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        Fostering good habits: the importance of record keeping in fostering.

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        Lucy Stevens - 8th March 2022

        All foster carers who care for children through Eastern Fostering Services need to write a weekly report on the child/children they are fostering. These records are typed, protected with a password and sent to the Supervising Social Worker every week. These records are sent on to Local Authority Social Workers enabling them to fully understand what life is like for the children and how they can best support them at any given time.

        Why are weekly recordings needed?

        Good and regular record keeping is important for many reasons:

        • Regular recordings as to the progress of the child in many areas of their development allow professionals to identify and advocate for the needs of the child. They may allow fostering professionals to observe trends in behaviour, the emotional state of the child, strategies that are beneficial or ineffective, the impact of events at school or in terms of family contact. These observations should help shape and refine the care package that is offered to the child and can identify problems and areas for improvement. Good quality, prompt recordings can allow for powerful advocacy of children’s needs.
        • Weekly recordings should capture any health concerns that might arise day to day. Having robust records can help identify health needs for children and means that carers and professionals can be responsive and proactive in ensuring children are physically healthy.
        • In producing detailed and timely recordings, carers can ensure that they get appropriate support in managing some of the more challenging aspects of fostering. Understanding the emotional health of children and the challenges they present to carers, ensures that Supervising Social Workers can have open conversations with foster carers about strategies which might help. Carers and social workers can use the recordings to secure additional emotional or mental health support to support children when they need it.
        • Recordings that log and celebrate the achievements of children and the progress they are making allow carers and professionals to acknowledge and praise children when they do well. Equally, children may wish to see their records at some stage in their life and it is important that they can see they were celebrated, noticed and praised for their achievements however big or small.
        • Weekly records alert professionals when there are safeguarding issues for the children. Foster carers should alert professionals immediately if there are concerns around safeguarding. This may include online safety, bullying, issues arising during family contact, drug or alcohol use, disclosures of harm or abuse either present or historic, involvement with the police, instances where child or young person has been missing, criminal or sexual exploitation, significant changes in behaviour. Anything of concern should be reported by the foster carer as soon as it comes to light to ensure that children are kept safe immediately.
        • Weekly recordings allow professionals to ensure that children have all their material needs catered to. Carers are required to note pocket money, savings and significant purchases they have made for the children.
        • Good record keeping also helps carers to protect themselves. By recording in detail, each day carers can demonstrate a chain of evidence in the event that children make allegations against them. Whilst this happens very rarely, foster carers can take some steps to protect themselves by noting all and any incidents and recording what was said and done at the time. Any incidents where carers have had to de-escalate situations or if they have had to physically intervene must be recorded fully and immediately. Any accidents that happen should also be reported immediately as the fostering agency is required by law to report these.

        What should foster carers expect to record?

        Each fostering provider will have their own guidance in place as to what and how foster carers should record. Here at Eastern Fostering Services, we ask carers to consider the following areas relating to the care they are giving:

        • Education. Foster carers should note how school or college is going. They should record the highlights and difficulties. If homework has been set, has it been completed? Is any extra support needed? If the child is not in education (e.g., due to illness, exclusion, etc) foster carers should detail and include date/s.
        • Health. If there are health concerns, foster carers would need to record these and list actions they have taken. This should include GP, dentist, optician and other health appointments, accidents, illness, injuries and infectious diseases. If medication is prescribed/given, foster carers need to state name of medication and dosage amount given.
        • Emotional and behavioural development. foster carers must record whether there are any behavioural difficulties, and the strategies they are using to manage them. Is the child showing signs of healthy emotional development or might extra support might be needed? There are robust processes in place to capture and examine any instances where physical intervention, e.g., restraint has been necessary.
        • Identity. Foster carers need to consider how children feel about themselves.  Do you think they have good self-esteem? What might be affecting this? Are there any particular cultural needs or extra needs that have to be addressed?
        • Family and Social Relationships. Some children in foster care can struggle with relationships so it’s a good measure of their progress and an important identifier of their needs to understand how they respond to family contact and how positive their peer relationships are.
        • Social Skills and Involvement. Has the child been to any clubs or taken part in any interests or hobbies this week? Is there anything that they have expressed an interest in? It’s important to note any concerns that the foster carer has and what they might be able to do to help.
        • Self-Care skills. An important role of the foster carer is to support children to develop life skills. Is the child able to do age-appropriate things for themselves? If not, how can the foster carer help them to develop?
        • Personal Items. Foster carers should record what they have bought for the child: Clothes, toys, or personal items. How much pocket money did they get this week? How much savings were put aside this week? This ensures that carers are accountable for using the allowance they receive to respond to the material needs of the child.
        • Safe Caring. Carers must record any child protection concerns they may have. Is it possible that the child is being bullied? Have there been any allegations made by the child or has anything happened or been said that concerns you as a foster carer?
        • Carers also must record If a child/young person went missing/absconded/unauthorised absence, a serious offence by or against a child/young person or incident involving police to the home, and if a complaint is made by or concerning the child.

        It sounds like foster carers are expected to do a lot! How do they remember everything?

        One big advantage of producing detailed, positive and truthful records is that they allow foster carers time and space to reflect. Sometimes the very act of writing down what is happening can afford carers perspective on the situation and enable creativity in their strategies. It can also be therapeutic when things are tricky. Keeping records also allows foster carers to keep sight of progress and maintain positivity.

        Many foster carers find that keeping a daily journal or diary helps them to remember everything and is used as a reference tool when writing up the weekly records. The daily journal can help the carers to note and process their own emotions and reactions to circumstances and is a valuable coping strategy. Whilst everything that is written in the daily journal won’t be appropriate for a record keeping on the child, it is a useful exercise for foster carers.

        Striking the right tone.

        Foster carers, like any other human, sometimes feel frustrated, angry, hurt and demotivated. It is really important that foster carers are able to separate and process their own feelings and reactions so that they can report professionally and factually.

        Being self-aware and seeking support from your fostering team is important as it allows you to vent and process.

        Before sitting down to write recordings, many foster carers find it useful to imagine their child reading them (which of course they may well one day want to). Recordings should be factual and observational and should not be peppered with personal opinion or judgements. Carers may well have an idea of what is behind behaviour and can express these opinions and strategies they are considering, after all they often know the child best. However, it is important that recordings are non-judgmental and well balanced.

        For more information on what it takes to be a foster carer, we have lots of resources on our website. You can look us up on Facebook or contact us with your questions.

        Eastern Fostering Services - The small agency with a strong family feel

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